How to Kill Bacteria on Laundry

Written by jess jones
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Many people believe that all we need to do to thoroughly clean our dirty laundry is to throw it in the washer with detergent, and the machine will do the rest. Often, we ignore recommendations that we sort our laundry to avoid cross-contamination, use hot water whenever possible and add bleach to every load that we can without ruining the laundry. Washing a kitchen towel that mistakenly came in contact with raw chicken in the same load as your toddler's pyjamas could make your child very sick if the towel contained harmful bacteria. Following a few easy steps will keep your clothes truly clean and your family healthy.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Several small hampers, baskets or bins
  • Washer
  • Laundry detergent
  • Chlorine bleach, any brand (both regular and colour-safe)
  • Anti-bacterial hand soap
  • Dryer

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  1. 1

    Sort clothes into the hampers or bins. Designate one for towels, one for sheets, one for underclothes, one for whites and one for colours.

  2. 2

    Determine to which loads you can add regular bleach and those that need colour-safe bleach. Follow the instructions on the bleach label, and wash a load with regular bleach first. Do this every time you do a lot of laundry at once, especially if you have to use a laundromat, as this ensures you kill bacteria left in the washer by the previous user.

  3. 3

    Determine which loads you can safely wash in hot water and which need to be washed in warm or cold water. If you have a lot of laundry that you can't bleach, run an empty hot water load every four or five cycles with just hot water and regular bleach.

  4. 4

    Wash and dry each load according to the care tag on the clothing or bedding.

  5. 5

    Always wash your hands thoroughly with anti-bacterial soap after handling dirty laundry.

  6. 6

    Use the hampers, baskets or bins to sort your laundry as it becomes dirty. Keeping the different types of laundry separate while they are waiting to be washed can help stop the spread of bacteria throughout all of your laundry.

Tips and warnings

  • If you aren't sure if you can use regular bleach, test a small, hidden spot on the article to test for colour fading.
  • Consider buying white towels, sheets and underclothes so you will be able to kill the most bacteria by using hot water and regular bleach.
  • Be careful not to get bleach on your skin, in your eyes or on coloured clothes. If injury occurs, call your poison control centre or 911 immediately.

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